The Hausbesetzung Movement of the 80s & the #occupy Movement of Today

I first wrote a version of this as a comment on a Facebook page I follow, but I thought it was worth reposting and expanding here on my blog.

Years ago, I hung out at a squat (a “besetztes Haus”) in the Kreuzberg neighborhood of West Berlin, back when Berlin had a West and an East. I met and talked with the ex-cons, Turks, junkies and radical kids who lived there. A guy we had met hitchhiking (who dressed in women’s cloths) took us up to the roof of the apartment house they occupied. If you had slipped off that roof you would have landed in the no-man’s land, the killing zone, with its mines and razor wire and guard towers. The Wall, in other words, was their wall.


The Beekeeper

The lack of a programmatic political endgame is the strength of #occupywallstreet,  not — as every journalist, and even some protesters, believe — its weakness. The moment #occupywallstreet becomes a “movement,” with a set of rules, the moment it becomes exclusive, it will give birth to a hierarchy, and the moment that hierarchy exists, everything else will end.

#occupywallstreet does not lack or need “demands.” Its existence says certain things: we are invested, we are engaged, we care, we’re upset, we’re worried, we empathize, we want to be involved, we believe, we have faith, we think the world can change for the better and we think we can become agents of some of that change.